UNICEF concerned over sentencing of 13-year-old child to 10-years’ imprisonment

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THE UNICEF today expressed deep concern about the sentencing of 13-year-old Omar Farouq to ten years’ imprisonment with menial labour by the Kano State Sharia Court at Feli Hockey, Kano, in northern Nigeria.

The sentence was handed down after he was convicted of blasphemy on August 10.

“The sentencing of this child – 13-year-old Omar Farouk – to 10 years in prison with menial labour is wrong,” said Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria. “It also negates all core underlying principles of child rights and child justice that Nigeria – and by implication, Kano State – has signed on to.”

The sentence is in contravention of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Nigeria ratified in 1991. It is also a violation of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child – which Nigeria ratified in 2001 – and Nigeria’s Child Rights Act 2003, which domesticates Nigeria’s international obligations to protect children’s right to life, survival and development.

UNICEF called on the Nigerian Government and the Kano State Government to urgently review the case with a view to reversing the sentence.

UNICEF expressed appreciation of the strides recently made by the Kano State Government to pass the Kano State Child Protection Bill.

“This case further underlines the urgent need to accelerate the enactment of the Kano State Child Protection Bill so as to ensure that all children under 18, including  Omar Farouq are protected – and that all children in Kano are treated in accordance with child rights standards,” said Peter Hawkins.

UNICEF will continue to provide support the Nigerian Government and Kano State Government on child protection system strengthening, including justice sector reform, to ensure that states put in place child-sensitive measures to handle cases involving children. This includes adopting alternative measures, in line with international best practice, for the treatment of children alleged to have committed offences that does not involve detention or deprivation of family care.

The child rights organization stressed the Government’s international obligations to ensure child-sensitive judicial measures for children who are alleged to have committed any offence. This should include ensuring quality legal representation and full implementation of child justice principles – all of which are geared towards reform, rehabilitation and reintegration of the child with their family and community.

Realnews reports that Section3(1) of the Nigeria’s Child’s Rights Act (2003), in mirroring Nigeria’s international obligations, provides that in every action – whether undertaken by public or private body, including a court of law – the best interest of the child shall be the primary consideration.

Under the Child Justice Administration Principles, which Nigeria and Kano State have signed onto, children who commit offences are to be subject to a distinct child justice system or process. This system or process, which is built on the notion of treatment rather than retribution, allows for a latitude of judicial discretion with a view to rehabilitation, reconciliation and re-integration. Under this system, detention of children should be a measure of last resort and for the shortest possible time. Imprisonment of children in regular prisons is not allowed under the child justice system.

– Sept. 16, 2020 @ 14:20 GMT |

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